Channel 4’s ‘deepfake’ version of the Queen’s Christmas Day speech left viewers divided, with some branding it ‘disrespectful’.
UK television station Channel 4 has sparked controversy for airing a digitally altered video of Queen Elizabeth II delivering her annual Christmas message.
However the station says the segment is “a stark warning” about deepfake technology and the “proliferation of misinformation” in the digital age.
The real British monarch traditionally delivers a Christmas Day speech aired around the world.
In a statement announcing the four-minute segment’s airing on the afternoon of Christmas Day in the UK, Channel 4 said the fake Queen appears “startlingly familiar at first” as she addresses what she and her husband Prince Philip have been doing in lockdown.
But the fake address takes a bizarre turn when she performs a TikTok dance routine.
It ended with her making a statement about “trust”, warning viewers to question “whether what we see and hear is always as it seems”.
Channel 4 says the segment shows firsthand how advanced deepfake technology can enable misinformation and “fake news”.
“Deepfake technology is the frightening new frontier in the battle between misinformation and truth,” Channel 4 director of programmes Ian Katz said.
“This year’s Alternative Christmas Address — seemingly delivered by one of the most familiar and trusted figures in the nation — is a powerful reminder that we can no longer trust our own eyes.”
In the video, the ‘Queen’ discusses several of the Royal Family’s most controversial moment this year, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s departure from royal duties, and the Duke of York’s relationship with disgraced financier and alleged sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The decision was widely criticised by social media users even before it aired on Christmas Day.
Several Twitter users responded to Channel 4’s promo for the segment by calling for a boycott of the station, while other slammed it as “disgraceful” and “disrespectful” to the Queen.
How dare they. https://t.co/hBQML7f9vB
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 23, 2020